The Blessings of “Un”-Summer

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Taken 7/13/2020 in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

I’ve officially titled the summer of 2020 the “Un”-Summer as it’s been the strangest summer of all my forty-nine years.

But I don’t mind.

Summer is my season, face masks required or not. I’ve always been a summer girl, and despite the abnormalities of this particular summer, I’m reveling in its magnificence.

The sunshine and heat, the thunder and rain, the humidity with its accompanying brassiness… it’s all good in my book.

Days are longer, hair is messier, feet are bare, and the carefree feeling of summer is like no other.

Summer just brims with absolute goodness: nectarines and pluots and watermelon and berries and ice cream from the ice cream truck, pedaling around my neighborhood or up to the beach and back with the wind blowing through my hair, searching for tiny shells or sea glass along the ocean’s wash line with sand between my toes on an empty early morning beach with a friend, sipping my morning coffee outside while the birds and the crickets and the cicadas sing-sing-sing along with each other, reading and writing outside as a cool breeze caresses my face, observing the fireflies dance with each other as the sun goes to bed for the night, watching the plants blossom from seedlings into flowers and fruits and vegetables…

I still enjoy these summer blessings in light of our current circumstances.

To be honest, I think our current state of affairs has actually increased both my awareness of and appreciation for every summer moment and experience.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the freedom of going to an amusement park without a reservation and a face mask, having lunch at some of my favorite restaurants that are currently shuttered due to a lack of outside dining availability or comfort, or strolling the boardwalk in the early morning without worrying about someone passing within six feet of me.

But the overriding arch here is that IT IS SUMMER.

I will continue living in my own little bubble of summerhood where life is good and bask in the glory of each summer moment and every summer day with appreciation for every summer blessing.

One of my accomplishments during this unprecedented “un”-summer is a complete revision/overhaul to my novel, Chapter One-A Novel, and this time, it’s the real deal. Over the past two months, I painstakingly dissected the manuscript and examined every word and sentence to improve its flow, voice, and story. That is why I’ve been absent from posting here; I focused wholeheartedly on the revision and did not want to become distracted by writing anything else. My hard work paid off, and I am wholeheartedly proud of and believe in the manuscript I produced. Chapter One-A Novel is now worthy of representation and publication. Here’s my one-sentence pitch:

Kelly Lynch, the twenty-something protagonist of Chapter One-A Novel, navigates the seas of friendship and the storms of loss as she travels from the Jersey Shore to Dublin, Ireland on a journey of self-discovery.

I know the universe will lead me to the right opportunity to put it into the hands of readers everywhere.

I hope that your “un-summer” blesses you with joyous memories filled with too many smiles to count. It will, if you make the best of it.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Blessings of ‘Un’-Summer” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on July 19, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marching Onward, With My Heart at the Forefront

Logo Color RedI slept until 6:45 AM this morning, although, in reality, it was 5:45 AM and the time I normally wake up. When you’re an early riser like me, March’s time change is of no consequence in the morning, although my eyelids will probably become heavy before the sun has completely gone to bed for the night until I adjust to the change.

An extra hour of sunlight at the back-end of the day. It’s one of my favorite harbingers of spring, along with dancing to the song of the spring peeper frogs as I waltz into school, which I did on Friday morning.

Even though it’s still technically winter, March has come in like a lamb along the Jersey Shore, and I’ll take it.

There’s always the possibility that a seemingly calm March can turn into a lion on a dime with Jack Frost busting in and riding that lion like a rodeo cowboy. However, the best thing about a March snowstorm is that it melts rather quickly.

Snow or no snow, light or dark, sunshine or rain, I’m all aquiver today.

Despite my best efforts and attempts to keep a positive outlook, the first two months of 2020 were emotionally difficult for me.

I dug out of the funk by adopting a new mindset: I dedicated myself to ME. Making myself the top priority in my life, along with incorporating lifestyle changes such as a regular and honest journaling practice, daily meditation, and yoga, has resulted in an awakening of massive proportions.

I’m experiencing life with a whole new level of awareness, one I never knew existed before, and it’s freaking amazing. I’ve got a new bounce in my step and a ridiculously stupid grin on my face as my heart now matters most.

My heart is simultaneously content and thrilled about the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of me, and my soul joyfully celebrates alongside my heart in camaraderie and sheer bliss.

I am now enlightened with a vision that will allow me to use my gifts and talents to serve others while as I follow the breadcrumbs I encounter along my path, ones I now see with absolute clarity.

Finally, I’ve found my dharma.

I am wholeheartedly devoting myself to my vision as I create it and give it life. As such, I’m looking for a few educators who would be willing to serve as beta-testers of my idea during the month of April. Should you be interested, please shoot me an email with your name, school name, and grade/subject you teach to jillocone@gmail.com.

Out of three ideas I have in my hopper, this particular vision will enact positive changes in the lives of fellow educators through leadership, support and encouragement, and if it proceeds as I envision, it will also shift the course of my future for the better.

I have a vision.

I have a plan.

I have a goal.

I have a purpose.

I am productive and focused.

And throughout it all, my heart will matter the most, as should yours.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Marching Onward, With My Heart at the Forefront” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 8, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved.

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

snapseedThat sums up how I’ve stood my ground as I maneuver through a tempest created by magazine article and editorial deadlines hitting at the same time as a new semester begins with a dash of minor health-related nuisances thrown in to make things extra-interesting. I’ve used a little of this and a little of that to stay afloat while keeping in check and putting my emotional needs at the forefront.

I am now my biggest priority.

Returning to meditation and yoga helped re-shift focus on my well-being, and I am noticeably happier and more grounded. I’m enthusiastic despite my fatigue and optimistic despite setbacks. I might be a big old clumsy mess on the yoga mat, but I show up anyway. I’m grateful for finding an attentive teacher who goes out of her way to assist me as I re-enter the yoga scene after too long of an absence.

Balancing my deadlines and professional responsibilities while allowing pockets of time to write solely for myself and to be with loved ones has helped me keep positive and on-task. I am not becoming overwhelmed by what I “have to do” because I find time to do what I “want to do” and prioritize using a forward-looking mindset.

I also shifted my writing purpose and goals to sync with my intuition. With pride and with dignity, I made the difficult decision to no longer pursue publication of my novel titled Chapter One-A Novel. My heart finally listened to what my soul and my instinct have known for quite some time, that this particular manuscript is not meant to find its way onto book store or library shelves right now.

That doesn’t mean I am a failure or that I suck as a writer.

My four-year journey of writing Chapter One led me to an unexpected and new chapter involving three heartfelt creative projects besides learning how to sand and paint furniture: two additional manuscripts including a second novel and a non-fiction book, and something I will call “Phase 3.” The possibilities of “Phase 3,” which will allow me to serve and support others while using my talents, excite me to my core and I promise to share more about it when I’m ready.

I dedicate time every day to work on my projects and hope to complete two of them by the end of the year. I am writing the novel and the nonfiction book for me without thinking about an audience, and that shift in thought has made a notable improvement in my work.

Not getting what we wish for can lead us to what we were created for.

A little bit of this, and a little bit of that. It all adds up to living a purposeful and passion-filled life, and I’m on my way to doing just that.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on February 22, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

17,897 Days

fullsizerenderI have been alive for 17,897 days.

That’s 49 years.

I’ve cheated death and outlived many.

I’ve loved and lost, laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned, lived and learned, succeeded and failed.

I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve made amends.

I’ve tried to be a good person.

I am a woman, a wife, a sister, an auntie, a daughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, a teacher, a learner, a writer, a neighbor, a helper, a survivor, a kid at heart, and a lover of life.

My scars and wrinkles, both inside and out, are badges of honor. I wear them with pride.

I am strong.

I am unique.

I am perfectly flawed.

I am kind.

I am open to life’s surprises.

Most importantly, I am still here.

Today I celebrate 17,897 days.

Today I celebrate 49 years.

Today I celebrate me.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“17,897 Days” was posted on jillocone.com on February 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

O Captain! My Captain!

img_1593Earlier this week, Major League Baseball announced that Derek Jeter was one of two players selected to the Hall of Fame for 2020.

Jeter received 396 out of 397 votes, finishing just behind fellow teammate Mariano Rivera for most votes ever received; Rivera was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame last year.

Anyone who doubts Jeter’s selection to Cooperstown merely has to examine his stats and career accomplishments. In his 20 seasons with the New York Yankees, he played in 2,747 games with 11,195 at-bats. He had 3,465 hits, with 2,595 of them singles and 544 doubles. He earned five career Gold Glove Awards at shortstop, tied for fifth-most by a shortstop in baseball history. He retired in 2014 with a personal career winning percentage of .593, five World Series championships, and 14 American League All-Star appearances.  Jeter was named captain of the Yankees in 2003, and that title has been vacant since he retired in 2014.

Nobody could fill his shoes.

Jeter’s talent would have resulted in similar numbers regardless of what uniform he wore, skills he honed through hard work and determination as a child, a teenager, and a man. It just so happens that uniform had the classic navy and white pinstripes with the quintessential Yankees logo emblazoned on his cap, which puts a target on his back.

Yankee fans love Jeter.

As much as they would hate to admit it, rival fans also respect Jeter despite those pinstripes.

I am a Yankees fan, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I am a female, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I admire Derek Jeter because of his character and his legacy of leadership. Even though he’s three years younger than me, he’s been a role model to me since his rookie season in 1995.

As a kid, Jeter had the goal of making it to the majors. With support from his two parents and coaches, he focused on that goal and wholly devoted himself to it. He worked hard on and off the field, hours each day, to improve his skill and become a better player.

It paid off.

As a player, Jeter always put his team before himself. Even as a captain, it was never about him. He wasn’t the best shortstop in history, but his determination and leadership game after game, season after season, and year after year made his stats rise and his character commendable. He played the game right, with class, and never allowed himself to get distracted with scandals or by feeding his ego. His confidence wasn’t cocky but inspirational and he focused on the positives rather than the negatives. Jeter’s impact and legacy both on and off the field is immeasurable.

That’s why there hasn’t been a team captain named by the Yankees since 2014.

The slogan RE2PECT, which first appeared in 2014, is still appropriate as it stands for not only Jeter the baseball player but Jeter the person.

Integrity. Honor. Determination. Loyalty. Class.

Derek Jeter not only inspired a generation of athletes, but scores of everymen and women like me. He led by example, and his example makes me want to be a better person.

Congrats, Captain, on your well-deserved selection to Cooperstown.

img_1592 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“O Captain! My Captain!” was posted on jillocone.com on January 25, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

Molly In My Heart

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Image Via Shutterstock

When I was about nine years old, I went to a classmate’s birthday party. For confidentiality, I will refer to that classmate as Molly.

I remember it was a cold, grey early December day, probably around three in the afternoon when my mother dropped me off at Molly’s house.

Molly greeted me at the door and I said, “Happy Birthday!” I handed her my present: Holly Hobbie Colorforms, stickers, and a new sticker album gift-wrapped in brightly colored paper and a red bow.

I looked around the living room and there wasn’t one party decoration, no balloons or streamers hanging anywhere. The house was dingy and dark and it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Her father didn’t say hello. Instead, he stared at Howard Cosell on the console television set complete with a big rabbit ear antenna.

“The backyard, Molly! You and your friend need to play outside!” her mother yelled from a room somewhere in the back of the house before I could even take off my coat.

Molly looked at me with unhappy eyes. “I have to listen to Mommy,” she said as she took my hand and led me through the house and out a back door that had a ripped screen and a broken window. The back yard contained a dilapidated swing set, barren of any swings or slides, and was littered with empty bottles and rusted cans.

Molly and I played outside for the entire two hours of her party.

No other classmates or friends came.

It was just me, and I was frozen to the bone under my coat and my mittens.

All Molly had on was a striped long-sleeve t-shirt, stained jeans, and torn navy-blue sneakers. She told me she didn’t need a coat and wasn’t cold despite her chattering teeth.

There were no snacks.

There was no soda or ice cream.

There were no favors or goody bags.

There was no cake for Molly, and no singing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was dark when my father picked me up. Christmas lights twinkled from all the houses on Molly’s street except hers.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop shivering. My mother was livid when she found out I was outside for two hours in the cold and in the dark.

“What kind of people have a party outside in the freezing cold like that!” she yelled. She called Molly’s house to complain, but nobody answered the phone.

I understood a little more about why Molly’s clothes were always dirty and why she never brought a lunch to school. For the rest of the year, I was extra nice to her. She was absent a lot, but on days when she was in school, I’d share my lunch with her and reach out to her because Molly was my friend.

I wasn’t allowed to go to her house ever again to play with her, and her parents would not drive her anywhere so she never came over to my house to play, either. The following year, I didn’t see much of her because we had different teachers, and we consequently lost touch.

That party was 40 years ago.

I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

It makes me incredibly sad that nobody else came to Molly’s party.

It makes me even sadder to think about how hard life must have been for her.

Molly ended up dropping out when we were in high school, and I have no idea where she is now.

However, Molly never left my heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for Molly to be loved and to have enjoyed a real birthday party like she so deserved.

I really hope God answered my prayers.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Molly In My Heart” was posted on jillocone.com on January 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

2020: Planning for Progress

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Left Top: Planner 2. Right Top: Planner 3. Left Bottom: Planner 4. Right Bottom: Planner 1.

I absolutely love planners, stickers, and journals/notebooks. Always have and always will.

To me, writing is innate. I’m forever jotting down my wishes, hopes, and dreams, and things I see and thoughts I have and tasks I need to complete.

This is especially true for tasks I have to complete because, at times, I can become easily distracted. If I don’t write it down, there it goes, flying away just like that pretty little butterfly flying past me…wow, look at the bright colors in her wings! Lemon yellow and black with a hint of bright sky blue towards the bottom of her wings. I think it’s an eastern black swallowtail. Where is she going? How old is she? I wish I could flutter along in the air like she does….

Get the idea?

I have to write things down or I’m left with a vapid mind and a “What was I doing again? What do I have to do today? Where am I?” type of confusion.

I definitely remember better when I write something down. For instance, “Glasses on Route 70” is written on my list of “one-liners” from 2019. I read it today and can immediately picture that late spring morning drive into work when I was stopped at a red traffic signal with the day’s sunrise shining in my side-view mirror. Through the sun’s rays streaming off the mirror, I noticed to my left a pair of mangled eye glasses next to the innermost concrete barrier in the highway’s median. I immediately wondered whose they were and how they got there…what a story starter! That’s what my list of”one-liners” is, a list of random things I’ve seen that could start a story. I can take you right now to the exact spot where I saw those eye glasses simply because I wrote down “Glasses on Route 70.”

Last summer, I unearthed my treasure trove of planners and journals of old in my attic Those archaic thoughts and plans provided a portal to my past lives. I’ll be honest that revisiting those calendars and writings reopened some old wounds with a bout of  the “coulda shoulda wouldas,” but isn’t hindsight 2020 (pun intended)? I’m extremely grateful that the only remaining visions from those crazy nights and past disheartening anguish-filled moments exist in pen and paper only and are available only to me, rather than by digital posts on social media that could be viewed and shamed by anyone in the world.

The advent of 2020 has led me to admit I have become a full-fledged planner addict. I have four active planners for the year, each serving a different purpose. I look forward in anticipation to the two hours every Sunday I set aside to plan for my week ahead by prepping my planners, replete with stickers, and stickers, and even more stickers!

Planner 1 is an Erin Condren Life Planner with daily hourly format which contains my agenda/schedule/task/”to do” list. This is the one I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll list my work schedule and daily focus, then appointments and meetings I might have along with items I need to complete in a checklist format (pay bills, take attendance, mow the lawn, etc.). I’ll also slap a blank post-it on the page to jot things down that I want to remember (like the Glasses on Route 70).  This year, I am purposely scheduling time blocks during each day/week for progress towards my monthly and yearly goals. For instance, I have a two-hour block each day for “writing and research,” and on Sundays when I’m prepping, I indicate what project I will focus on during each day’s writing block. I will fill most of January’s daily writing blocks with work towards my magazine assignments, but I’ll mix it up with “New Novel Work” or “Surf Book Research” on off-days. I’ll also schedule time to walk, meditate, query, read, beach sessions, household tasks, and laugh. Once I have scheduled my week in my planner, I’ll set up schedule alerts in my phone as another way to keep me accountable and on task. Dedicating time for my goals, my responsibilities, and my writing has helped me to stay focused without becoming distracted by the temptation of social media or butterfly fly-bys.

Planner 2 is my daily diary from The Happy Planner (8.5 by 11 format, vertical daily layout, health and wellness theme), which is where I compose a diary-type entry each night. Most of the time I write things I want to remember or highlights of my day in incomplete sentences, like my niece’s laughter or the color of the sunset. If I’m too tired at night to write, I make sure I do it first thing the next morning. I also keep a running list of places I went, places I ate, and one-liners I recopy from Planner 1 in my daily diary. Sometimes I’ll tape in pictures I took or things I picked up throughout my day.

Planner 3 is new this year, a 7 by 9″ planner from The Happy Planner (classic format, horizontal format for each day, beautiful Coastal Good Vibes theme). Inside its pages, I mapped out my daily/monthly/yearly goals for 2020 with its purpose to keep me more accountable for making progress towards what I hope to accomplish this year. Each goal is color coded, and I use the daily day blocks to log what I accomplished each day. I also complete a “skeleton schedule” for the upcoming week which I transfer into Planner 1’s schedule after I see my open time slots for each day. This planner has helped me to focus on all of my goals (the “big picture”) while breaking each down in manageable chunks of progress for the week. Both Planner 1 and Planner 2 have a monthly goals section, and Planner 3 helps me to refine what I declare on those pages as my monthly goals.

Planner 4 is the Irish Get Up & Go Diary 2020. I stumbled upon this beautiful little diary on my 2016 Dublin trip in Eason (my favorite store ever) and I’ve bought it online every year since. With colorful spreads and the right amount of encouraging quotes and motivating sentiments, I use it for my daily gratitude reflections as the space available for each day is the perfect size.

Stickers and planners go hand in hand, and I just love sprucing up my week with color and positivity. I have a large sticker tote, and I’m not exaggerating when I say there must be over a million stickers in that tote. I’m a huge fan of The Happy Planner’s sticker assortments and selections because they offer more variety and a better quality product for the price versus competitors. On Sundays, when I’m planning for the week ahead, I am surrounded by stickers that will help motivate, inspire, and add a little bit of seasonal charm and colorful fun to my days.

In addition to Planner 1, I also carry a plain journal/notebook with me wherever I go to free-write, plot out ideas, and dump my brain. I use this notebook for daily “morning pages” in Julia Cameron style, but I usually write only a page or so. When I complete my daily diary entry into Planner 2 each night, I also review my notebook to see what I need to transfer to my planners (i.e. list of things I have to buy, ideas for a character in my next novel, etc). Planners 2, 3, and 4 stay at home unless I am traveling, then all of them will be in my carry-on.

To some, it might seem like all of this is a waste of time.

I beg to differ.

My system helps immensely with NOT wasting time by keeping me on task while keeping the distractions at bay.

Besides being easily distracted, sometimes my Lupus will cause what’s known as “brain fog.” There’s nothing worse for a writer than sitting at a keyboard or with a pen/paper and having NO thoughts coming, especially when there’s a deadline looming, then in frustration, wasting time scrolling on social media. Even in a fog, or when a beautiful butterfly flies past me, my planners help me focus on the big picture and redirect me to making headway, no matter how small, towards one of my goals.

Planning is progress, and for me, time well spent as 2020 is the year I will become the person and the writer I’m meant to be.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“2020: Planning for Progress” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 5, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

 

 

New Year’s Morning

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“New Year’s Morn. “Taken January 1, 2020 at sunrise in Melbourne Beach, Florida with my iPhone (no filters). Copyright Jill Ocone, 2020.

It’s quiet and calm

At the beach before dawn

As the sun peeks its head

Over the horizon.

Slowly yet deliberately,

It casts joy and hope

Masked in its first light

On a new day,

A new month,

A new year,

A new decade,

A new me.

Its grows and ascends

As it magnificently

Ignites every cloud in the sky

And shell on the sand

With its splendor of colors

And radiant light.

As it says,

Good morning, world.

Here’s a brand new day,

Another fresh start

Created just for you…

and if this one doesn’t work out,

I’ll be back around

Same time tomorrow,

With another new day,

Another fresh start,

Teeming with a new batch of

Joy, hope, and faith,

Waiting just for you.

 

Happy new day. Happy new month. Happy new year. Happy new decade.

And Happy New You.

 

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

 

“New Year’s Morning” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 1, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

 

 

Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…

20160314-blog-photo-new-fonts-use“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca, also quoted in “Closing Time” by Semisonic

Today is December 28, 2019.

It’s the end of the month, the end of the year, and (gasp), the end of the decade.

Boy is that a mouthful!

As the clock’s hands tick forward to time’s trifecta of the beginning of a new month, a new year, and (gasp), a new decade, I’m straying from the trend of making insert-appropriate-ending-here reflections and listing insert-appropriate-ending-here accomplishments that ultimately do nothing more than feed my ego.

Likewise, I’ve lived long enough to realize that resolutions are nothing more than lip service, so I’m not going to waste my time setting myself up for future disappointment by making empty resolutions just because that’s what society expects of me.

Instead, I’m approaching 2020 with practicality, honesty, and authenticity as it will be a year of enlightening discovery.

My word for 2020 is “becoming” and it’s just deliciously exhilarating knowing I am evolving into both the person and the writer I’m meant to be. As I approach 50, I am still getting to know myself as I continue to learn and grow.

As such, I have selected five projects to complete in 2020 which will help me become just that person and that writer, and each project will serve my fellow humans in some way, shape, or form. More details about each project are forthcoming and I sure am glad you’ll be accompanying me on my journey.

My intention for 2020 is to live every day better than its yesterday, no matter where I might be or what is on my planner for the day while honoring my core values of kindness, generosity, and compassion. I will help when I can and endure when I must.

“Becoming” is certainly fluid and I am eager to chart my course and explore the compass of me.

May the new month, the new year, and the new decade lead you to YOU with an abundance of health, happiness, and joy.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 28, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

A New Hope, Indeed

opening_crawlI’m in full preparation mode for Thursday, which includes purchasing as much Kleenex stock as possible and buying tissues by the boxful.

That evening will culminate 42 out of my 48 years here on earth, and I’m not being melodramatic in the slightest.

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.”

I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant.

Toy options for little girls like me in the 1970s included various models of Barbie dolls including Cher and Farrah Fawcett, Shrinky Dinks, Easy Bake Oven, paper dolls, Holly Hobbie, Fashion Plates, Spirograph, and baby dolls.

While the Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks were okay, the rest?

No, thank you.

My little brother, on the other hand, always received the coolest toys for Christmas and his birthday, so I played with them instead.

I spent hours creating highways out of the plastic, orange track that my brother’s die-cast cars could take back and forth to work or use to race their nemeses. I took pleasure in building cities and creatures out of his collection of hard, plastic interlocking blocks in all shades of primary colors. I could pretend and use my imagination to create stories that didn’t have females conforming to the societal stereotypes of the era when I played with toys marketed to boys.

Especially in 1977.

That’s the year when my beloved uncle and grandfather took my brother and I to the movies to see some two-hour-long space-type flick that was all the rage.

I was six years old, and I remember it.

My brother was two, and he remembers it.

The characters and vehicles and lands from this so-called “space opera” were top-billed requests on letters addressed to Santa from all over the country that year, and believe you me, I raided my brother’s treasure trove of vehicles and figures from said “space opera” every chance I got.

That blockbuster movie, known today as Star Wars: A New Hope, has coursed through my veins for 42+ years and positively impacted my life in several ways.

At first glance, many are surprised that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I was exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, and I adored her.

I still do, now more than ever.

Star Wars offered me new hope at an age when I so needed it.

And it wasn’t just Leia.

I loved all of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. This most interesting band of misfits and their missions transported me to exciting worlds as they defended their cause with 100% effort and dedication for what they believed was the greater good.

And Boba Fett is the baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. He’s got swagger and an aura of cunning dauntlessness, and is the coolest cat I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Star Wars lands like Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor, and Yavin 4 were so different from the other lands of suburbanite make-believe I was exposed to as a child. Who would have ever thought that now, thanks to the magic of Disney Imagineers, I can actually board and ride the Millennium Falcon and walk through lands inspired by those in the Star Wars franchise two- score-and-two-years after seeing them on the big screen for the first time? Shameless plug here for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is out of this world, pun intended, and Shangri-La for the millions of people like me who have Star Wars in their bloodline.

Three trilogies with nine movies and two spinoffs spanning 40+ years in both space time and reality… I’ve loved every single one of them.

Let me loudly repeat that for the fanboys in the back: I unconditionally loved every single movie.

Now, the saga featuring the story of the Skywalker lineage is ending with the ninth installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which premiers on Thursday night.

Sure, there will be new Star Wars series and films in the future, especially on Disney+, but THIS saga, the Skywalker three-three-three trilogies, has reached its end.

This saga’s threads spans generations and have run deep through my life tapestry inspiring me, exciting me, and providing me with a sense of acceptance and a love of story I might never have found otherwise.

More importantly, this saga has provided me with hope, time and time again, and I’m eternally grateful for its lessons.

Carrie Fisher taught me to follow my heart and age authentically, that it’s okay to be broken, and honest writing can be therapeutic. George Lucas taught me to write what my soul tells me to write in spite of the naysayers. Princess Leia taught me to be a strong and independent woman while fighting for what’s right, and also that I never have to conform to society’s norms. Han Solo taught me that scoundrels aren’t all that bad. Luke Skywalker taught me to believe in what I cannot see. Chewbacca taught me the value of friendship. C3PO taught me the importance of wisdom. Anakin Skywalker taught me the perils of giving into darkness. Darth Vader taught me that family ultimately comes first. Padme Amidala taught me to serve when I can. Lando Calrissian taught me to let bygones be bygones. The Emperor taught me the importance of balancing the dark with the light. R2D2 and BB8 taught me to keep rolling when things get difficult. Kylo Ren taught me to focus on the lesson instead of the outcome. Finn taught me that anyone can be a hero. Poe Dameron taught me the importance of teamwork but to recognize when it’s time to work alone. Rey taught me to seek my destiny and to believe in my journey, no matter where it takes me. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught me to trust the Force because it will always guide me in the right direction.

Boba Fett taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a bad-ass misfit, and to answer requests made of me with, “As you wish.”

Finally, Yoda taught me to do instead of try, and that there’s a time for everything to end.

And, so it is.

If you see me on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening night bawling like a baby, it most definitely isn’t only because of what happens in the storyline, not that I know anything that’s going to happen, mind you.

Those heartfelt tears will be flowing because the curtains will have closed on a very special part of my life as the double suns set for the final time while the credits scroll among the stars.

Cue the John Edwards fanfare.

The force will be with you.

Always.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A New Hope, Indeed” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.